Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Long-term Mission Partnerships Available!

Just above this post is a link to an exciting mission training event in October at McEachern UMC in Powder Springs, GA USA. One of the great lessons to be shared at this event, co-sponsored by Venezuela Now, Inc., is the great value of Long-term Mission Partnerships. They are transformational for the sending and the receiving church.

Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela is a great place for your church or mission group to develop such a Mission Partnership. If all goes as planned, next week we will close on the property pictured here. It is located in La Piedad, Venezuela, a suburb of Barquisimeto. It has five buildings including a two story building which will probably house the Women's Dorm and the Library and a couple of offices; a very large building to house the Men's Dorm, Reception Area, Offices and Two large Classrooms; the Cafeteria and kitchen building; a large home and a small home.

God willing, we will have our first graduation on August 16 in the two-story building. Then the work really begins. What is the need?

Obviously money. You will certainly hear more about this later, but we have six months to raise the $250,000 needed to pay off the property after we pay the $110,000 next week. The Seminary will also need about $100,000 (we think) in additional funds for a commercial kitchen, improvements to existing buildings, and furnishings.

The Seminary also needs Long-Term Mission Partners. These are churches and teams which will come to the Seminary year after year making constant improvements on the facility. Immediately, the need exists for masonry teams, painting teams, landscaping teams (you can grow anything in the tropical paradise), roofing teams, etc.

Please begin now recruiting a team and setting a date to come to Venezuela. You can contact us for more information. We can pick you up at the Caracas airport (or one of the other international airports if you desire), transport you to Cabudare and the Mission house, provide you with transportation, food, housing, and translation in a safe, comfortable and affordable environment. You can work as hard as you please along side some of the finest Venezuelan Christians you will ever meet. You just have to pay your expenses and raise money for construction supplies for the project you want to complete (from a list we can supply).

Also, pray. Everyday. Make the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela a part of your church's prayer list, your Sunday School or Bible Study Prayer list as well as your personal prayer list. The work is difficult here, but the rewards are eternal!

Call or email me at:
Warren Lathem
Venezuela Now, Inc.
text message me at 404-502-5678

Here are some pictures from the seminary site as we visited it today:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Report from Sunday

Sometimes we are asked, "Why are you so passionate about Venezuela?" The long answer is too long for this post. The picture at the left gives the short answer.

Sunday was Children's Day in Venezuela. We attended the Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church of Venezuela along with the mission team from the Tucker UMC in Tucker, GA. You will see a picture of their team below.

What a great day of celebration we enjoyed at Ondas de Paz! The Sanctuary was filled and some adults were outside. The worship music was GREAT! The presence of the Holy Spirit was so real, no one there doubted we had been in the presence of the Lord. There were dozens of children and the service was designed for them. The pastor, Alexander and his wife Amerylis led the children in worship. He then preached a short, but effective sermon to the parents and congregation on our responsibility to the children.

The service was followed by hamburgers and playtime on the trampoline, inflatable castle, face painting, etc. It was a very special morning and afternoon in the life of Ondas de Paz and especially for those of us in attendance from the US.

The Tucker Team arrived safely to Carbudare on Saturday and were warmly welcomed Saturday and again on Sunday by the Church at Ondas de Paz. They commenced a construction project on Monday. Their goal this week in working with the people of Ondas de Paz is to remove a church office, creating more badly needed worship space in the sanctuary, build a new office on the rear of the structure and, if time allows, add a small addition on the sanctuary, again increasing the seating capacity. It is clearly obvious this space is needed.

Sunday was also a special day for our daughter in law, Lim, and our son, Jared, and granddaughter, Zoe. Lim got to return to the home she grew up in. This was after 3 years of absence from Venezuela following her marriage to Jared. It is the building that houses Ondas de Paz. Her father and mother, Efrain and Bethsaida Morales, planted the church in their home, then donated the building to the Wesley Association of Venezuela when they moved to the United States to start the Hispanic Ministry at Snellville UMC.

Stay tuned for more reports from Venezuela... And pray for the resources needed for this work. Also, please consider making a financial gift to Venezuela Now, Inc. You can mail it to the Post Office Box indicated above in the masthead.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tucker Arrives and Inflation is Rampant

The team from Tucker UMC is arriving in Cabudare as I write this post. They have had a long drive from Caracas and will be tired, but excited to attend the reception at Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church. We will meet them at the Mission House about 6:00 for dinner and orientation.

Work here is absolutely full of challenges. We are awaiting the delivery of some things critical to the comfort of the team.

Additionally, inflation is horrible. Today we paid 24 Bolivares Fuerte ($11.16US @ 2.15Bf/$1) for a roasted chicken at the CM Supermarket here in Cabudare. Inflation of food prices is currently about 50% per year. Total inflation is between 30-40%. This is very difficult for the vast majority of the Venezuelan population. We are reminded of the great sacrifice when we visit in a Venezuelan home or church and they serve us the very best of food and beverage. It is a humbling experience to be the recipients of such selfless sacrifice. We know their hospitality is taking food off their table, but the Venezuelan people, especially the Christians, are so genuinely gracious. What a privilege to serve with them.

Pray for the safety of the Tucker team and for all the logistical issues facing the work to be resolved. God is faithful.

Friday, July 18, 2008

McEachern Goes Home and Tucker Arrives

The 17 person Mission Team from McEachern UMC in Powder Springs, GA just completed a very successful mission trip to Punto Fijo where they worked with the churches of Obispo Juvenal Perez. Many activities filled the week as they did construction, street evangelism, Vacation Bible School, Recreation and other activities. Venezuela Now ministry assistant, Samuel Rojas, hosted the team. This was the first time he has had full responsibility for a visiting team. He reported to Warren today that the team had a great time. While three members had some health issues, the team left Venezuela safely. (See previous post for some of the complicating details of this event.)

Samuel returned to Barquisimeto yesterday and left today for Caracas. He will greet and bring the next team to Cabudare. Tucker First UMC, Tucker, GA will arrive tonight about 11pm. Samuel, with the assistance of Gustavo Moron, trusted van driver, will transport the team to the Mission Guest House in Maiquetia where they will spend the night. Tomorrow they will drive to Cabudare for a reception hosted by the Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church of Venezuela. Sunday morning will feature a special Children's Day at Ondas de Paz followed by a Bar-B-Que. Monday will see them continuing the construction and renovation of the Ondas de Paz facility.

We (Warren, Jane, Jared, Lim and Zoe) arrived in Caracas on Wednesday night and drove to Cabudare on Thursday. Today has been a day of rest. We will join the Tucker Team tomorrow for some orientation. We will worship with them on Sunday. Our Academic Dean and his wife have worked diligently in preparation for receiving us and the Tucker Team. Please pray for them as well as the Team and the congregation and pastor of Ondas de Paz.

Meanwhile, pray for the purchase of the Seminary property. Everything is advancing, but transactions of this nature take months here under the very best conditions. Pray for the lawyers, government officials and the seller and buyer to all act in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. Also, pray for additional resources for this purchase. We will pay approximately $110,000 when the property closes and then pay the balance, $250,000 more or less, approximately 6 months later. We are able to make the first payment. We are praying for the funds for the final payment as we do not possess those at this time. However, God is faithful and we are learning more and more how to trust in our Lord's provision.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Many Things Going On, So Pray

The McEachern UMC Mission Team arrives tomorrow in Punto Fijo, Venezuela. Seventeen people will be working with Bishop Juvenal and Pastora Nohely Perez doing Vacation Bible School, evangelism and other projects. Venezuela Now's Ministry Assistant, Samuel Rojas, arrived there yesterday to make sure all was ready for their arrival. When he got to the hotel, he was informed that a prominent politician was coming and they had taken their reservations. He spent the night with Bishop Perez and prayed all night for a solution. This morning he returned to the hotel and met with the manager and was told he would guarantee the rooms, "no problem." Those of you reading this who have been to Venezuela know the imperative of praying for the work there, even every detail such as hotel reservations. Nothing is easy, but God is faithful!

Meantime, our ministry partners in Venezuela are preparing to receive us next Wednesday as five of us travel to Cabudare. We will be spending a month there. They are also overseeing renovation on a a house, preparing for Seminary August 11-15 and our First Graduation. They are also working to close on a house and the seminary property, something that is incredibility complicated in Venezuela.

They are also preparing to receive and host the Tucker First UMC Mission Team arriving in Cabudare on July19. Venezuela Now rents a mission house that will accommodate their housing needs; So our partners have to get the house and linens cleaned, and will provide breakfast and dinner meals for them while they are there working on the Ondas de Paz United Methodist Church.

Then they will repeat this for the Mount Pisgah UMC mission team arriving August 6 and staying through seminary graduation. Again, cleaning, meals, transportation, and logistics fall on them. All of this while seminary is in progress.

The seminary class cannot be held on the LaPiedad property, but we are praying we can have it ready for Graduation. Add this to their list of obligations. Fortunately, our Dean of the Seminary is not having to teach as Dan Dunn and I will be teaching a course, Church Growth. However, he does have to see that books are available, arrangements made with the seminary's landlord, sound system set up, projector set up and working and a dozen other details.

All of this is to say, PRAY! We covet your prayers for all of this and more which I cannot mention here. Just know it takes twice as long and cost three times as much to do whatever we try to accomplish in Venezuela. But God has been faithful. Lives are being changed. That fulfills our mission of reaching the lost of Venezuela. The best way we can do that is to equip and empower Venezuelan pastors. Hence, we provide the seminary. Again, Pray!!!